A contentious scheme to introduce iPads at a Harrogate school has been branded a “communications disaster” by furious parents.
And as more details of the Rossett School scheme emerge this week, parents’ initial concerns have turned to anger at the way it has been managed.
In particular, a hire purchase scheme dubbed a monthly donation plan which would see parents paying out 62 per cent more for an iPad mini has come under fire.
“The way the school has done this is astonishing,” said one parent, who asked not to be named. “It feels like we are being approached by a high pressure salesman.”
Another parent said: “I’ve no doubt it’s a good learning technology. But it’s the way they’ve gone about it that I object to. There’s not enough information.”
Parents have been told there are two ways to sign up. They can buy iPads outright at a discounted rate or through a monthly “donation” scheme.
It is this monthly option - resulting in parents paying a great deal more - which has drawn fierce criticism after a packed parents’ evening.
“When you read the hand outs it becomes clear you don’t own it, the school does,” said one angry parent. “It’s just clever wording. It’s not underhand, but it is misleading.”
Those signing up to the monthly donation scheme, giving £9 a month and a £40 deposit as suggested, would pay 62 per cent more than those who bought outright, and 35 per cent more than the average retail value.
But, defending this, headteacher Pat Hunter said the payment was voluntary and subject to circumstance. It would also cover a case, an app voucher, and insurance.
“The whole point is that everybody pays a little bit more so that everyone has got one,” she said. “Yes, it’s more expensive, of course it is. But people give what they can afford.”
The scheme was unveiled in late November - just five weeks before Christmas. Mrs Hunter, defending the timing of the announcement, said she had been trying to reassure parents.
“I accept the information evening may have been rushed in a little bit,” she said. “That was largely because parents were asking us if they should buy iPads for Christmas.
“Perhaps I could have given more information. But I first gave notice to parents over a year ago. It’s been in almost every newsletter since. It’s a little unfair for parents to say they didn’t know anything about it.”
Already around 500 people had signed up to the scheme, she said. “We’ve had very positive feedback overall. The people who are the most vocal are the people with the most concerns. Educationally, it’s the right thing to do.”
See the Advertiser for an in-depth feature and parent comments.